First up, the shameless plug! Earlier this year Dumnonika were contacted by ITV and asked to do some filming for their upcoming series Britain's Secret Treasures, presented by Michael Buerk and Bettany Hughes. Obviously we agreed, and ended up shooting sequences for four different artefacts, the Canterbury Helmet, a neck ring from South Wales (with an on screen interview with Katherine Jenkins), a pair of divination spoons and a beautiful bronze mirror. This series is now being aired on Thursday evenings on ITV from 8:30 to 9pm, and we hope this will be but the start of filming sessions for the group.
Now interestingly enough, the first thing many of my re-enactor friends asked when told about this was "I hope you're getting good money for that!" In fact, we simply got our expenses covered. Why? Several reasons: Working in advertising I appreciate the value of being put in front of a massive audience (and if they're watching this series then presumably they have a passing interest in history), but this isn't the main reason.
How many times have I (and I'm sure many other re-enactors and historians amongst you reading this), winced when watching a televised representation of the past, screamed at them for not doing their research and generally wept inside over the general public once more being given the wrong impression of the past? Can I, in all good faith, justify that reaction and then turn down the opportunity to do what little I can to correcting the problem? I know the series will probably still get things wrong, but without us providing kit for the Welsh neck-ring, for example, they'd have had the lass wearing it in a white floaty gown. At least we managed to get her in a more authentic set of clothes (although she was still wearing modern make-up...)
Also, we're not trained actors or paid up members of an actor's guild, and we treated these sessions the way we treat a public event: re-enactment is our hobby, we are not professionals. I used to do a lot of high level competitive fencing, and no one paid me to turn up to competitions, in fact you had to pay for the privilege of competing. This is why Dumnonika charge enough to cover expenses, to keep the group running (and for events that involve driving a very long way, we do pay towards members' fuel, as a show with no members is not going to be the best show!
Now on to spears, and this has got me rather excited (probably, as usual, unhealthily so!)
I've recently made contact (thanks once again to the incredibly helpful Dr. Jody Joy of the British Museum) with a lady doing a PhD on Iron Age British spearheads, and the evidence she has let on to me suggests that we're fighting with spearheads that are massively over size. Of course there's always that bit of you that thinks "Oh blast! But I paid good money for those spearheads!" Well, yes, but one of the hazards of re-enacting a period as far back as the Iron Age is that you always run the risk of better evidence coming to light. It might have been around for ages for all to see, just not seen by you. Any good re-enactor should take this in their stride and, learning of new evidence, change to reflect the new evidence, and this is what Dumnonika will be doing.
The best bit for the warriors in the group (and we've now more than doubled the fighters in the group thanks to Adminios, Tectomaros and Vissia starting to train with us) is that smaller spearheads (and we're talking tiny - 8-9 cms long, with socket diameters of around 14mm) means lighter spearheads, and lighter spearheads (and narrower shafts) means faster spears, which in turn means faster combat. Oh yes, we're looking forward to stepping up the pace...
Anyhow, that's enough rambling from me for now, I shall leave you weary readers for another month (if you're lucky), although I may return sooner if I get more details on those spearheads, for those of you who are interested!